Category: Philosophy & Mythology

The Beautiful & The Sublime

Music is the highest form of art…according to Schopenhauer

“Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see”

Wagner 2

The opening bars of Richard Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde”

Two things save my soul and intellect living in the boonies of Normandy. At home: the internet for everything from the New York Times and Foreign Affairs to films and documentaries and whilst driving: France Culture! How much have I learned from randomly listening to the radio station France Culture. Art, philosophy, music, politics, this radio station expects its listeners to be on the ball and thirsty for high quality programs…nothing is “dumbed down”.


I needed to give you this intro because I once fell into a program about the German philosopher Schopenhauer’s methodology in aesthetics, his account of the subjective and objective sides of aesthetic experience (both of the beautiful and the sublime), about the hierarchy of the arts and rationale for this hierarchy, his view of artistic genius, the exceptional status of music among the fine arts, and the relationships he theorized between aesthetics and ethics.

CartoonCaricature of Schopenhauer (1788 – 1860) by Wilhelm Busch

This question of a “hierarchy” in the arts seems personal, perhaps irrelevant, but I find it highly exciting! Why is one “moved to tears” by sounds? Why is music, a sequence of sounds, capable of invoking such a variety of emotions, we can not touch it, it has no shape, it literally exists in thin air…

KandinskyWassily Kandinsky, “Composition VII,” 1913

Aesthetic experience comes in two main varieties for Schopenhauer, the beautiful and the sublime, and can be had through perception of both nature and art. I just love the idea of the “Beautiful and the Sublime”. Schopenhauer believes the experience of music brings us epistemically closer to the essence of the world as will—it is as direct an experience of the will qua thing in itself as is possible for a human being to have.

ruscha musicEd Ruscha designed the cover of Mason Williams 1968 album Music

Art, according to Schopenhauer, also provides essential knowledge of the world’s objects in a way that is more profound than science or everyday experience.‪

Schopenhauer’s aesthetics remain influential today, and are perhaps the most lasting part of his philosophy. Leo Tolstoy, Richard Wagner, Friedrich Nietzsche and Jorge Luis Borges were amongst the many profoundly influenced by Schopenhauer’s philosophy. And so am I, thanks to my car radio and France Culture!

“Music is the melody whose text is the world”


Schroeder playing the piano in Peanuts, his favorite composer is Beethoven…

I have seen the future…

How the Futurama in 1939 created the vision of the future

photoThe iconic Trylon and Perisphere structures of the 1939 World Fair in Queens, New York

The theme of the 1939 World’s Fair in New York was “The World of Tomorrow.” One exhibit created by General Motors, called the “Futurama,” was an ride designed by Norman Bel Geddes that presented a possible model of the world 20 years into the future. It showed a utopian city of the future called “Democracity,” characterized by its automated highways and vast suburbs.

Read the rest of this entry »

On Kindness

“I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers.”

Khalil Gibran

KG2Drawing by Khalil Gibran

Much is written on the concept of kindness, the correctness of kindness and the philosophy of kindness, but I simply think the most important question one can ask about a fellow human being is: “Is he or she kind?”

Read the rest of this entry »

Mirror, Mirror…

Reflections on a reflection device…

The first way anyone would have been able to contemplate his or her image would have been as a reflection in a pool of still water…like told in the Greek mythical story of Narcissus who saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely an image. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus drowned.

Narcissus-CaravaggioNarcissus” by Caravaggio – circa 1597

It is amazing how in early antiquity mirrors were a common everyday accessory, from a simple piece of polished obsidian to elaborate hand mirrors with decorative handles.

Read the rest of this entry »

Love, according to Snoopy

The Meaning of Life and Love in Peanuts


Read the rest of this entry »